health policy updates and breaking news from capitol hill
April 27, 2018  | 

National Addiction Policy Update April 2018 (end of month report)


Congressional members will be on recess next week.



Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee

On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved the Opioid Crisis Response Act (S. 2680) by a unanimous vote of 23 – 0.

In his opening remarks, Chairman Alexander (R-TN) touted the work of the Committee in developing S. 2680, which he said includes 40 different proposals from 38 different senators on both sides of the aisle. Alexander also said that while the challenge before the Committee to address the opioid misuse and overdose epidemic has been described as needing a “moonshot,” he believes that what the federal government can do is “create an environment so that everyone – judges, mayors, counselors, police officers, Drug Enforcement Administration agents, doctors, nurses, parents, pharmacists, and hospitals – can succeed in fighting the crisis.”

With the bill now favorably reported, Alexander said he will ask Leader McConnell (R-KY) for floor time so the bill may be considered this summer. He said they will continue to consider ideas between now and when the bill will go to the floor and he anticipates the work of other committees – particularly Finance and Judiciary – may be incorporated into one package when the bill is before the full Senate.

House Energy and Commerce Committee

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved 57 bills to address the opioid misuse and overdose epidemic; the bills are now referred to the full Committee for consideration.

The bills that were not voted on included:

  1. H.R. 3545, Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act
  2. HR 3692 Addiction Treatment Access Improvement Act
  3. H.R. 4005, Medicaid Reentry Act
  4. H.R. 4998, Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act
  5. H.R. 5477, Rural DOCS Act
  6. H.R. 5562, To require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a strategy implementing certain recommendations relating to the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015, and for other purposes
  7. H.R. __, FDA Long-term Efficacy


During the opening statements, Democrats expressed dismay at the speed at which the Committee is moving on such a large number of bills with several saying they would prefer “quality over quantity.”  In response to a question about the amount of time there will be to work on bills before they advance, Subcommittee Chairman Burgess said he does not anticipate the full Energy and Commerce Committee will markup for several weeks and then Floor consideration is not likely until several weeks after that.  As we have previously reported, full Committee Chairman Walden has very publicly said he wants bills ready for a House floor vote before Memorial Day.



This week, medical marijuana supporters gained support from key members of Congress.  Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York announced his support to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.  Further, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, announced his co-sponsorship of the Medical Cannabis Research Act.  The bill authorizes limited production of cannabis for research purposes and protects institutions conducting the research from losing federal funding.

Though Goodlatte is retiring from Congress this year, he had previously been one of Congress’s most ardent opponents of marijuana use.  The support of Schumer and Goodlatte suggests a possible sea change in the perception of medical marijuana, and marijuana policy generally, in Congress and among the American people.




This Policy Update was generously provided by Holly Strain & Carol McDaid of Capitol Decisions